Last week in the waning days of July, Congress finally passed a major science and technology bill that had been 18 months in the making, changed names and form at least five times, and bounced back and forth from one legislative chamber to the other. The final bill, named the CHIPS and Science Act, (H.R. 4346) is designed to address U.S. competitiveness with China, including supply chain for semiconductors, and boost the U.S. research and development enterprise across a wide range of federal agencies, sectors, and regions.
Of greatest interest to social scientists was the inclusion of a reauthorization of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the measure. The bill authorizes $81 billion in spending for NSF over five years, of which $20 billion would be allocated to the newly created Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP). There are also provisions to expand funding for STEM education and traineeships, to give underrepresented groups greater access to STEM education and research dollars, and to invest in programs that will bring research funding—and, ultimately, high tech jobs—to rural communities.
The centerpiece of the CHIPS and Science Act were provisions to address microchip supply chain issues and over-reliance on foreign manufacturing of chips, by catalyzing investment in the domestic microchip industry. These provisions really drove the measure forward and accounted for its ultimate bipartisan support.